The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Seniors represent university at national cycling competition

    From six-hour endurance rides to short, intensity-packed journeys with aerobic workouts in between, seniors Adam Koble and Tristin Bentzler devoted hours and hours each week to training for cycling races. All their hard work paid off last weekend, as the duo claimed impressive finishes at the 2010 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships held in Madison.

    Koble and Bentzler each competed in two events at the national competition: the road race and criterium. Both racers recorded finishes higher than when they competed in last year’s national championship.

    Bentzler said his and Koble’s senior status provided extra motivation to do well.

    “It was our last chance to participate in nationals,” Bentzler said. “We worked all season for this.”

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    The action started on Friday when Koble and Bentzler finished 7th and 19th out of over 70 initial entries in the road race, respectively. The course in Blue Mound State Park was about 73 miles and featured an unusual uphill finish. Bentzler said the weather was windy, rainy and barely over 40 degrees, making it a challenging three-and-a-half hour ride.

    “We were soaked to the bone,” he said, adding the competition was still fierce. “Everybody tries to bring their best; they give it all they’ve got.”

    With great finishes under their belts, the Blugolds took to the streets of Madison in the criterium race on Saturday. In criterium races, city blocks are set aside for a timed race. The event in Madison was an hour long and had the field making laps around Capital Square. Bentzler led Eau Claire by finishing 42nd of over 70 original entrants while Koble was not far behind in 44th place.

    Bentzler actually won the prime of the event, meaning he was leader at a certain point in the race, in this case, at the halfway mark.

    He said that in criterium racing, cyclists often round the corners seven-wide at around 30 mph. The inevitable bumping and close-quarters adds a new element to racing, Bentzler said.

    “Part of criterium racing is to learn to be smart and not panic when riding,” he said.

    Before racing in the national event, Bentzler and Koble had to meet certain qualifications. Bentzler said selected cyclists have to repeatedly crack the top 10 in their conference and compete in at least three races before they are even considered.

    The conference Eau Claire competes in – the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference – is arguably one of the toughest in the nation, Bentzler said. As a result, he said the competition is at its highest.

    “They’re the best college racers of the nation,” Bentzler said, adding many of the competitors are actually on pro-development teams in the summer. “There’s a lot of talent.”

    Julia Gieschen, who will be president of the cycling team after Koble graduates, said the dedication of Koble and Bentzler to cycling is incredible.

    “I can’t say enough about those two,” Gieschen said, adding they are always encouraging the other cycling team members. “They definitely live the sport.”

    Gieschen said the Eau Claire area is a great place for cyclists as well. Located between Madison and Minneapolis, it is near two cities that host a lot of major races. Also, there are many great trails, roads and hills for cyclists to ride on, she said.

    Bentzler agreed and suggested students take advantage of the opportunities when they have the chance.

    “Eau Claire is definitely a haven for great places to bike,” he said. “We’re really lucky here.”

    One option for interested students is to join the cycling team. Gieschen said everybody is welcome to join and that members don’t have to race; they can just enjoy the ride. For more information about the cycling team, visit the team’s Facebook group or e-mail Gieschen at [email protected].

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    Seniors represent university at national cycling competition